BY DAVID V. BARRETT
Secret Societies are rooted in our everyday experience. Everyone loves to hear secrets, to know things which most other people don't know. If it's something important, something significant, there can be a feeling of power in being one of the few people who know it; even if not, there's a satisfaction in knowing that you are one of the select few.
THIS SHOULD ONLY APPLY TO THE TRUE CHRISTIAN; NO OTHER WAY OF LIFE SHOULD BE A "SECRET" TO OTHERS; SOMETHING YOU FEEL SMUG ABOUT; EVEN A CHRISTIAN IS TO LET THEIR LIGHT SHINE. AND LIVE IN A WAY THAT DOES NOT HOLD BACK IN WHAT YOU BELIEVE, AND AS PAUL WAS INSPIRED TO SAY, "GIVE AN ANSWER FOR THE HOPE THAT LIES IN YOU" SHOULD ANYONE ASK WHY YOU LIVE THAT WAY. CHRISTIANITY IS NOT A "SECRET" PER SE….. IT IS A WAY OF LIFE THAT SHINES OUT, A CITY SET UPON A HILL THAT IS NOTICEABLE, A CANDLE LIGHT THAT IS NOT HIDDEN UNDER A TABLE - Keith Hunt
As small children, many individuals - especially those raised on Enid Blyton's Famous Five and Secret Seven, or Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine Club - formed a secret society of their own, a private club. Usually these had very few members; in some cases, only two, including the long-suffering dog.
At school, it's important to join in. If you're not in the First XI or the First XV, or the football, hockey or netball team, you have to join the philatelic club, the astronomy society, or some other group. If you don't, you're really a loner. Sometimes two or three loners group together; there's security in numbers, as well as companionship. And there's always some kid who is even more of a loner than the rest of you; you don't really want him, but you sometimes let him tag along with you, on the understanding that he's on the outside, not really 'one of you'; you let him know that there are secrets you're not going to share with him - even if there aren't.
SUCH "SCHOOL CLUBS" ARE OPEN AS SUCH, EVEN IF YOUR NOT PART OF ONE, YOU KNOW BASICALLY WHAT THEY ARE ABOUT. HENCE YOU TRY TO JOIN ONE, BECAUSE YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAND FOR AND WHAT THEY DO, WHICH IS WHAT YOU WANT TO STAND FOR AND DO, SO YOU WANT TO JOIN. I WAS IN THE "BOY CUBS" AND LATER THE "BOY SCOUTS" BECAUSE I LIKED WHAT THEY STOOD FOR AND DID, NOT BECAUSE THEY WERE "SECRET" AND MYSTERIOUS AND HIDDEN. JESUS WAS NOT MYSTERIOUS OR THE LEADER OF SOME "SECRET CLUB" - HE WAS OPEN ABOUT WHAT HE STOOD FOR, OPEN ABOUT WHAT HE PREACHED, ABOUT THE "CLUB" THAT BELONGED TO THE FATHER IN HEAVEN. WHAT THE FATHER'S CLUB WAS ALL ABOUT HE OPENLY TAUGHT AND PROCLAIMED, THERE WAS NO DARK HIDDEN SIDE TO BE KEPT "SECRET" FROM OTHERS, IN SOME KIND OF "VANITY" MIND-SET THAT SAYS, "I HAVE SOMETHING OTHERS CAN'T HAVE, IT'S A SECRET OF MINE AND I CAN'T GIVE IT TO YOU." THE CHRISTIAN CULB IS TO BE PROCLAIMED OPENLY, WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT, AND HOW YOU CAN BE PART OF IT….. THE AGE TO COME WILL HAVE NO "SECRET SOCIETIES" WHATSOEVER - Keith Hunt
When we leave school there is still that need to belong. For some this is satisfied by membership of a church; for others, by sports; for others by being one of a group of regulars at a pub. For some, folk clubs; for others, science fiction fandom. If you play football, your team is better than anyone else's; if an SF fan, you might speak dismissively of 'mundanes', those not part of your group.
Some groups have more kudos than others. If a leading member of your university debating society, you are on a powerful launch-pad; you might end up in the select company of lawyers, or in the British House of Commons.
If you're a businessman, or a small-town solicitor or a schoolteacher, or a policeman, you might find yourself joining a Rotary Club or the Freemasons. For most, the same need is being satisfied: the need to belong, the need to be one of the gang.
MAYBE BUT NOT A "SECRET GANG" - THE MOBSTERS AND CRIMINAL GANGS LIKE TO BE "SECRET" FOR THEIR DEEDS ARE EVIL, PRACTICED IN DARKNESS - LITERALLY WITH MANY, AND CERTAINLY METAPHORICALLY - Keith Hunt
And for some, that need is to know things that other people don't: to have secrets; to be one of the select few. Knowledge is power, and the fewer people who share that knowledge, the more powerful they are. If invited to join such a society, you feel good about it. It might be the Freemasons; it might be a local amateur dramatic society. In this one respect at least, there is little difference. You are on the inside at last and, among other things, are now in a position to keep other people out.
BUT HERE IS HUMAN NATURE AT WORK….. DARK, SECRETIVE, VAIN, EGOTISTICAL, PROUDNESS, SELFISHNESS. SECRET SOCIETIES PAMPER TO THE EGO, TO "I HAVE SOMETHING YOU DO NOT AND CAN'T HAVE, UNLESS YOU ALSO BECOME PART OF OUR MYSTERIOUS CLUB, THAT SAYS YOU MUST KEEP IT MYSTERIOUS." THIS IT NOT THE ATTITUDE OF GOD…… THERE WILL BE NO "SECRET MYSTERIOUS SOCIETIES" IN THE AGE TO COME - Keith Hunt
Nobody likes to feel left out. 'The psychology of perceived exclusion' - feeling left out - can cause jealousy and envy. Whether they admit it or not, many of those who attack the Freemasons, for example, may be harbouring bitterness that they have never been asked to join. But the same thing applies in all aspects of life: in the professions, church, clubs and other social groups. A common complaint is that the people who share out all the best jobs among themselves all know each other. One doesn't have to look at secret societies to find self-perpetuating inner circles. Why are some people more powerful and successful than others with equal ability? 'It's not what you know, it's whom you know' is a common grumble, especially when you're trying to break into a new field and find that all the plum assignments go to people who have connections in that field.
THE WORLD IS MAINLY CARNAL, THEY ARE BLINDED TO SPIRITUAL TRUTHS, AND/OR DON'T CARE. SO SELF INTEREST, LOOK OUT FOR SELF FIRST, GET TO THE TOP - PUSH DOWN OTHERS TO GET THERE, JUST A SELFISH VAIN EGO ATTITUDE IS ALL TOO COMMON - Keith Hunt
It's easy to ignore the counter-argument, that it's perfectly natural to give a job to someone who you know (from his or her track record) can do it, and who you know (from personal contact) you can trust. Self-perpetuating inner circles sometimes have a perfectly rational reason for existing.
YES MAYBE IF JUST HAVING A NATURAL MIND-SET - Keith Hunt
But when someone who is known to shake hands in a particular way lands a decent job, whether a local building contract or the chairmanship of a major company, human nature would have us point a finger of suspicion at the Freemasons. And when sensationalist newspapers and books fearlessly expose corruption supposedly riddling Freemasonry, it's hardly surprising that some people believe it.
CARNALITY CAN BE ANYWHERE, EVEN IN THE SO-CALLED "GOOD DEEDS" GROUPS - Keith Hunt
This is not yet another book of that type.
Having said that, I'm quite sure that there are corrupt Freemasons. It would be astonishing if there were not. I'm equally sure that there are corrupt members of the Institute of Directors, the Trades Unions and, for all I know, the Mothers' Union.
Whether it's a child in his own special club of two or three members, or whether it's a businessman in the Freemasons, there's nothing unusual about wanting to belong to a secret society. It can be fun; there is the delight in knowing secrets that few others know; the satisfaction of being included in the in-group; a feeling of importance, and sometimes of power; and sometimes there is genuine power through being one of the decision-makers, one of the elite.
IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO VANITY, CARNAL PROUDNESS, A ONE-UP-ON-YOU ATTITUDE - Keith Hunt
But are you one of the real elite? Outsiders sometimes suspect there is a hidden group of people making the major decisions which affect all our lives. People sometimes joke about 'The Secret Masters of the Universe'. But once finally a member of the Freemasons, or the Yachting Club, are you any nearer to being one of these 'Masters'? Or do you suspect that an inner group of members are actually pulling the strings? You climb higher and higher up the ladder, and the thousands at your level become hundreds, and then tens. Compared to those further down the ladder, and even more to those who are right outside, the Great Unwashed, the mundanes, the profanes, you're one of the elite - but are you really one of the powerful decision-makers? Even the Grand Master of your Order (or the president of your golf club) seems to be constrained by the decisions of others. Perhaps he's just a puppet himself, a figurehead for public consumption; perhaps, behind him, there's a shadowy group who really run things. Perhaps they are 'The Secret Masters of the Universe'.
AND SO IT MAY GO - THAT IS WHY SECRET SOCIETIES WILL NOT BE ALLOWED IN THE AGE TO COME - Keith Hunt
Conspiracy theorists have a field day with this sort of thing. Always, beyond the top, there's another level; always, behind the leaders, there are the secret leaders; and behind the secret societies that we know about, there are even more secret societies that no one has ever heard of.
ANOTHER REASON THAT SUCH SOCIETIES WILL NOT EXIST IN THE AGE TO COME - Keith Hunt
I'll be touching on such theories throughout this book.
For the record, I'm not a Secret Master of the Universe myself. I'm not at the time of writing (nor, in the words of the McCarthyites, have I ever been) even an ordinary, common-or-garden Freemason or Rosicrucian. You won't find the names of any Secret Masters in this book, except by accident. I don't know who they are. Neither does any other author on the subject.
By definition such Secret Masters (if they have any existence beyond the paranoid minds of conspiracy theorists) are unknown and unknowable to all except themselves. You can't apply to become a Secret Master of the Universe, as you can to become a Rosicrucian; membership is by invitation only. I imagine such membership would be extended to very, very few.
WILL NOT BE EXTENDED TO ANYONE IN THE AGE TO COME - Keith Hunt
Definitions and caveats
From the moment one first looks at secret societies, it becomes apparent that most of them have some sort of religious basis.
It may be useful to examine the origins of a few terms, many of them religious, often associated with secret societies.
Alchemy was never really to do with the transmutation of base metals into gold; this was symbolic of the transmutation of the base nature of man to the godly nature of the transformed man.
Arcane comes from the Latin for 'something that is shut up', or locked in a chest.
'As above, so below' refers to the mirroring of the macrocosm (the world, the universe, the cosmos, the God without) and the microcosm (the individual man, the soul, the God within).
Christ spark is a term sometimes used to refer to the spark of the divine flame, or the tiny fragment of God, within each human being.
Esoteric comes from the Greek for 'inner' or 'within', and applies to something taught to or understood by the initiated only.
Exoteric, from the Greek for 'outside' or 'the outward form', applies to knowledge available to the uninitiated.
Heresy and heretical beliefs are always defined as such by the establishment Church (of whatever religion), usually as a means of enforcing their control over spiritual dissidents. The word actually comes from the Greek for 'choice', which religious hierarchies have always denied to individuals.
Hermetic, often as in Hermetic Philosophy, comes from the name Hermes Trismegistus, Hermes the thrice-greatest, the mythical author of the occult Egyptian texts which lay behind fifteenth-to seventeenth-century alchemy; he was named for the Greek messenger of the Gods, equivalent to the Roman Mercury.
Immanent, immanence (from the Latin manere, 'remain') refer to the indwelling nature of God; see also Transcendent/ence.
Initiate, as a noun or a verb, comes from the Latin for 'beginning', and generally refers to the admission of someone into secret knowledge.
Magic, mage, magus, magician come from the Greek for 'art' as in 'skill' - artful rather than artistic.
Myth, in its technical sense rather than its everyday sense, means a story whose importance rests on the message it carries, rather than on whether or not it is historically factual. Use of the word does not imply that a story never actually happened; in its correct usage, the Masonic tale of Hiram the Architect, the stories about King Arthur, and incidents in the life of Jesus are all myths. The phrase 'the Jesus myth' includes not just the New Testament account, but also the centuries of popular accretions, such as the three wise men, not numbered in the Bible.
Occult comes from the Latin for 'hidden'; it is used in that sense in both astrology and astronomy today, without any devilish connotations.
Rite, ritual, from the Latin, mean a solemn or religious ceremony or observance.
Transcendent, transcendence (from the Latin trans, 'beyond', and scandere, 'climb') refer to God being 'out there somewhere', beyond human apprehension; see also Immanentlence.
Western Mystery Tradition: Depending on the particular emphasis of a school, this can include the study of the Arthurian cycle, or Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology.
It usually includes study of the Cabala and Tarot, and the spiritual alchemical teachings of the Hermetic Philosophers.
Note that the word 'orthodox', except in one or two places where with a capital letter it clearly refers to the Eastern Orthodox Churches, is used throughout in the sense of mainstream, establishment, 'normal' beliefs, in contradistinction to unorthodox, heterodox, unusual and probably heretical beliefs. Exoteric Christian beliefs and practices are orthodox; esoteric ones are not.
The capitalized word 'Church' refers to the authority of the Christian establishment, of whatever denomination. In many places, historically, this means the Roman Catholic Church; in other places, depending on the context, it can mean the Protestant authorities. The word 'church' with a lower-case 'c' means a church building.
The word 'God' is capitalized throughout, both for convenience and to avoid the implied value judgement of showing discrimination between 'the one true Christian God' and 'false pagan gods'.
The word 'Mason' means Freemason; without the capital letter it refers to stonemasons.
Throughout this book I mention several varieties (as opposed to denominations) of Christianity. These should be defined in the sense in which I am using them, as follows.
Such terms as mainstream, traditional, orthodox, establishment, and standard are used to refer to the majority of Christians in the major denominations, who generally follow the teachings of their Church. Historically, in the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches, they regard their priest as the intermediary between themselves and God, though this has changed quite a lot in the last few decades. Many are devout believers, well versed in their faith. Others, while holding a sincere belief in the main tenets of orthodox Christianity, would be hard put to argue theological points. Some, whom I refer to as 'pew-sitters', have only a vague, generalized understanding of Christian doctrine; the Church is a familiar, comfortable part of the establishment in their life, and little more than that. Having said that, most of Christian history - Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant - is mainstream; most normal Christian doctrine is mainstream; most Christian scholarship is mainstream. Mainstream Christian doctrine ranges from Evangelical to Liberal.
Evangelical Christians have asked Jesus Christ to be their personal Saviour, and believe that they have assurance of salvation. They know the Bible well, and they can argue their theology. They believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, though there is some range of belief on this. For example, there are Evangelical biblical scholars (e.g. Professor F.F. Bruce) who accept many of the findings of biblical criticism of the last hundred years or so, but whose faith in Jesus as Lord is not affected by this. In recent decades Evangelicalism has grown in importance within the Church of England, and there are now numerous Evangelical bishops.
Only a minority of Evangelicals are Fundamentalists, but they are an outspoken minority. A Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian believes absolutely in the literal truth of the Bible: God created the world in six days, Adam and Eve were real people, Moses parted the Red Sea, and so on. If anyone suggests any doubt about the factuality of such events, they are to be condemned; true Fundamentalists even regard most Evangelicals as having a fairly wishy-washy, watered-down belief, while most other people who call themselves Christians simply aren't: Roman Catholics, for example, are the Whore of Babylon. Fundamentalists reject biblical criticism out of hand; the suggestions that people may have edited books of the Bible to support their beliefs, or that the choice of which gospels and epistles ended up in the New Testament was a human decision, or that parts of the Bible should be interpreted allegorically, are regarded as outright blasphemy.
Liberal theology, to Fundamentalists, is simply not Christian. Liberal beliefs again have a very wide range, from almost mainstream right up to God-is-dead. Generally, liberal Christians are likely to doubt the Virgin Birth, the physical resurrection, and many miracles in the Bible. They accept biblical criticism into their views, and regard parts of the Bible as allegorical rather than factual. Some would speak of Jesus the man, and Christ the Saviour; they would distinguish between the mainstream belief in the deity (Godhood) of Jesus Christ, and the more liberal belief in the divinity, or divine indwelling, of the man Jesus.
Some readers may be offended by some of the ideas discussed in this book: the suggestions that there might be some truth in all religions, that the Bible was compiled by human hands, and that the majority of Christian doctrine wasn't formulated until several hundred years after the birth and death of Jesus. But such concepts are hardly new.
The vast majority of ordinary Christians are kept ignorant of the scholarly findings and debates of the last century or so pertaining to their religion. Anglican and Roman Catholic priests all study the development of biblical criticism during their training for the priesthood, but they rarely pass any of this knowledge on to their congregations. In the early 1990s the Bishop of Durham, the Right Rev. David Jenkins, caused controversy by saying that it is permissible to have doubts about such matters as the Virgin Birth and the resurrection, and still remain a Christian. Fundamentalists condemned him, as might be expected; but the media behaved as if no one had ever voiced such thoughts before, and that the Bishop had no right to do so. Many said he shouldn't be a Bishop; some said he wasn't a Christian.
A century of biblical criticism and religious scholarship might as well never have existed. Any writer discussing varieties of belief constantly meets such popular ignorance and condemnation. For an excellent discussion of this problem, see the first chapter of The Messianic Legacy by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln.
In places this book is critical of previous books in one or another specific area of this overall subject; this is most apparent in the chapter on Freemasonry. This is not a case of authorial infighting; more importantly, it does not mean that I am acting as an advocate for Freemasonry or for any other movement. Such books are criticized in order to point out sloppy scholarship, poor argument, factual errors, or what might be seen as outright deceit.
This book is a phenomenological exploration of the beliefs of certain organizations, movements and individuals, rather than a statement of my own beliefs. I am not personally either approving or antagonistic towards any secret society, or any branch of Christianity or any other religion. Where there is criticism it is of bigotry, small-mindedness and tunnel vision, and such faults are by no means restricted to Christian, or indeed any other religious movements.
In many ways this book can be seen as a companion volume to my The New Believers (Cassell 2001). Inevitably there is some overlap between the two, though I have tried to keep repetition to a minimum.
One further point must be made right at the start. Most of the present-day organizations mentioned in this book say firmly that they are not secret societies. The Freemasons are often quoted as saying that they are a 'society with secrets, rather than a secret society'. The various Rosicrucian groups generally call themselves schools of religious philosophy, or something similar. One organization, the Lemurian Fellowship, wrote: "though we understand the basis for your proposing to include the Fellowship in a book about these [secret societies], it simply would not be accurate". They go on to say that "the Lemurian lesson material is available only to qualified students. Not because it is 'secret' but because each lesson's information provides a basis for the next; along with this the Fellowship teachers' guidance to each student according to his individual needs makes the deeper benefits possible and adds to the uniqueness of Lemurian Training."1
There is no simple definition of a secret society, but this comes as close as anything to describing four of the major characteristics of secret societies:
* carefully graded and progressive teachings
* available only to selected individuals
* leading to hidden (and 'unique') truths
* and to personal benefits beyond the reach and even the understanding of the uninitiated.
A further characteristic common to most of them is the practice of rituals which non-members are not permitted to observe, or even to know the details of.
FIVE GOOD REASONS WHY SUCH SOCIETIES WILL NOT BE ALLOWED IN THE AGE TO COME - IN THAT AGE, THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD SHALL COVER THE EARTH LIKE THE WATERS COVER THE SEAS - NO "SECRET" ABOUT GOD, HIS WORD, HIS WAY OF LIFE; IT WILL BE THE RESTITUTION OF ALL THINGS, OPEN AND GIVEN OUT TO ALL PEOPLE IN THAT AGE - Keith Hunt
Whether or not they call themselves secret societies, the movements - whether historical or present-day - mentioned in this book exhibit some or all of these characteristics.
Secrecy is endemic in our society. It always has been. Later in the book I shall look at secrecy in crime and government; before that I examine the Freemasons to see where they came from, and the Rosicrucians and where they came from; and the whole confusion of secretive philosophical and religious organizations throughout the centuries. Everywhere there will be found connections: the Freemasons, the Rosicrucians, the Knights Templar, the Cathars. There are links of ideas and ideals between all of them, and they all share common roots: with these roots my discussion begins.
Movements and individuals are covered more or less in chronological order throughout the book, except where discussion of one leads naturally into discussion of another. Certain subjects, such as Architecture, Tarot, Magic and others, which span centuries, are explored where it has been most convenient to place them.
TO BE CONTINUED